Saturday 19 August 2017

Reformer Rouhani re-elected in Iran

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani Credit: Vahid Salemi (AP)
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani Credit: Vahid Salemi (AP)

Parisa Hafezi

Iranians yearning for more freedom at home and less isolation abroad have emphatically re-elected President Hassan Rouhani, throwing down a challenge to the conservative clergy that still holds ultimate sway.

Rouhani secured 57pc of the vote in Friday's election, compared to 38pc for his main rival, hardline judge Ebrahim Raisi. Although the powers of the elected president are limited by those of unelected Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who outranks him, the scale of Rouhani's victory gives the pro-reform camp a strong mandate to seek the sort of change that hardliners have thwarted for decades.

Rouhani's opponent Raisi, a protege of Khamenei, had united the conservative faction and been tipped as a potential successor for the 77-year-old supreme leader who has been in power since 1989. His defeat leaves conservatives without an obvious flag bearer.

The re-election is likely to safeguard the nuclear agreement Rouhani's government reached with global powers in 2015, under which most international sanctions have been lifted in return for Iran curbing its nuclear programme.

Nevertheless, Rouhani stills faces the same restrictions on his ability to transform Iran that prevented him from delivering substantial social change in his first term, and thwarted reform efforts by one of his predecessors, Mohammad Khatami.

The re-elected Rouhani will also have to navigate a tricky relationship with Washington. Donald Trump arrived this weekend in Saudi Arabia - Iran's biggest enemy in the region - who will push hard for Trump to turn his back on the nuclear deal.

Sunday Independent

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